Welcome Back Dear Readers!
I am back! Uni is killing me, obviously 🙄 but that’s uni for you. But lately, I was contacted by Leigh Dreyer, an author who I hosted here on my blog, last year with her first book; “The Best Laid Flight Plans”, and Leigh asked if I would be interested in hosting her again, this time with her second book and the sequel to her first book. And naturally, I couldn’t refuse her.
Welcome back, to one of my favourite modern P&P authoresses; Leigh Dreyer, with her second book; “The Flight Path LESS Travelled”
“The Flight Path Less Travelled” picks up nearly where book 1 ends, and it was good to be back in “familiar” surroundings of Netherfield, with the newlywed Bingleys and Darcy and Elizabeth, after the accident.
I was quite surprised to see a character from another beloved Austen book, appear as a flight doc, more specifically Elizabeth’s doctor! Namely the charming if roguish Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility – and just to put it mildly, Darcy dislikes him, immediately – not that that was such a surprise since Darcy is head over heels for Elizabeth. And besides, I didn’t like him either, to be honest!
Drama ensues at Longbourn, when old history is dredged up, after Elizabeth’s accident, which makes Elizabeth’s life turn upside down.
With a decision about her future, will Elizabeth follow her ambition or will she follow her heart?
Leigh has answered some questions for me, so enjoy the authoress Q&A;
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I work as a speech pathologist, currently in the Las Vegas area. I work both in person at a charter middle/high school and a long term acute care facility and doing teletherapy (which I absolutely love) from my home. Yes. I have three jobs plus writing because I apparently enjoy being crazy. I write while my kids take naps, during teletherapy breaks, and at night. I have an incredible husband who is a pilot in the Air Force and two amazing kids. My son is four and my daughter is two. Both my husband and I are children of Air Force pilots which makes for fun family get-togethers. Needless to say, I very rarely have to do a lot of plane-related research.
2. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Elizabeth Bennet has just gone through tremendous trauma at the end of The Best Laid Flight Plans and now she has to get back up, brush herself off, and push forward. In the original Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth faces a lot of invisible enemies (marriage or lack thereof, the entailment, etc.), but I wanted to see where she would take me when her enemies were very much physical. Would she be strong and fight?
3. Which writers inspire you?
Jane Austen is the obvious answer, but I’m also inspired by so many JAFF authors. People like (in no particular order) Linda Wells, Joy King, Diana J Oaks, Maria Grace, Abigail Reynolds, Jenetta James, Karen Cox, Beau North, Jan Hahn, Elizabeth Ann West, Rose Fairbanks, etc. inspire me to fall more deeply in love with characters I already enjoy. I also love Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaman, Aled Hossein, Tom Wolfe, William Makepeace Thackeray, Agatha Christie, and CS Forester.
4. What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
After going through The Best Laid Flight Plans I changed the ending because I just wasn’t ready for it to end. I wanted to see what happened next and leave the door open to really learn more about Mr and Mrs Bennet, Colonel Fitzwilliam, etc. I needed another book or two or three for the story to end for me.
5. This book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
The Flight Path Less Traveled is book two in a series of three planned books: The Best Laid Flight Plans, The Flight Path Less Traveled and Came a Flight Gently. The first book is a P&P variation whose storyline closely follows the events of P&P. The next two are original continuations although you will definitely see other favourite Austen characters and events as the story continues. Each book is an altered line from a poem that I find meaningful and that I feel speaks to the tone of the book I wanted to write.
6. What is your favourite movie and why?
Gone With The Wind. Partly because I am an eighty-five-year-old woman trapped in a thirty-year-old’s body (please see my love for all classic film, 1940s jazz and classical music, and other habits like insisting my family eat at the table) I love the costumes, the romance, the huge sets, the language. I love it all. Scarlett is one of my all-time favourite characters. She doesn’t let other people tell her she can’t achieve. She needs to take care of her family, so she does, in whatever way she can. I find her strong, capable head something I would love to emulate, even if she is a little stupid with her heart.
7. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Just do it. Jump in. You can figure it out while you’re doing it, but if you wait until you understand every nuance of a task, years will pass and it still won’t be done.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write. Also, edit. I recently had a friend who decided her NaNoWriMo draft was ready for publication. She had not even re-read it. Yikes. I tell every aspiring writer I know to write and then let someone read it and critique it. Critique can be hard to accept, but you’ll only get better.
In this modern Pride and Prejudice continuation and sequel to The Best Laid Flight Plans, 2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet and Captain William Darcy are facing trials after the events of Elizabeth’s last flight. Darcy’s proposal lingers between them as Elizabeth becomes almost single sighted to her rehabilitation and her return to pilot training. A secret is revealed to Elizabeth about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s past that throws all she has known to be true into a tail spin. The romance between our hero and heroine begins to blossom through military separations, sisterly pranks, and miscommunications. Can Darcy and Elizabeth come together or will flying in the Air Force keep them apart?
Leigh has been also been a dear and allowed us to view, and read the first two chapters of her book, though forgive me for not posting ch2 as well.
CHAPTER 1; A Flight Path LESS Travelled.
Rain. She shuddered with a sudden chill as a raindrop slid down the back of her shirt. The dark, heavy clouds settled around her, prickling her skin. Her eyes searched for shelter from the storm and spotted the familiar stone house in the distance. Running toward it, her shoes heavy in the mud, she felt herself pick up speed. Soon she found herself on a winding, paved driveway.
To her left was a small stream that emptied into a quaint pond. Raindrops rippled at the banks. It’s a great day if you’re a duck. She smiled as a single drake waddled from the bank, then glided effortlessly into the pool.
The house loomed in front of her and she soon found herself at the door. She knocked loudly and waited, rubbing her arms in an attempt to stay warm.
There was no answer.
She knocked again, much louder this time, and looked around the entrance for a doorbell of some kind. She shuffled anxiously from one foot to the other, shivering, and hoping that someone would answer the door.
She pounded against the door, then walked back a few steps, looking at the windows in the home, trying to ascertain if anyone was there.
Finally, she saw him. He was as handsome as she had ever seen him. Dressed in a sweater and jeans with his hair perfectly in place, he looked out at her through the window and smiled. Warmth immediately flooded her chest and she felt alive. She needed him.
She stretched out her hands and he came to her with a thought. She looked into his dark eyes and her stomach turned in anticipation of his touch. He brushed her cheeks with his thumbs, pulling her face gently to him, touching his lips to hers. As he kissed her, his fingers combed through her wet hair and ran down her back. Every part of her touched by him was on fire, electric somehow, and every sensation was heightened by the contrast with the cold rain around them.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss that seemed to touch her very soul. The raindrops ran down their faces and she sighed. Warm, content, happy, and in love. She closed her eyes gently, letting her body take over. He moaned in response, a deep vibration against her chest and suddenly―
Second Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet shook her head, clearing her thoughts. She felt the world around her vibrate when the propeller sprang into motion. She stretched her legs to move the rudders and turned onto the runway. The number one plane was thirty feet diagonally ahead of her and, as the lead nodded to roll forward, she pushed the throttle full. Gravity pushed her body into the seat as she took off. The sun beat on the cockpit glass and sweat dripped down the neck of her flight suit.
Elizabeth loved flying, soaring from cloud to cloud. Sometimes she imagined she was in one of the old biplanes and could let the wind whip her scarf and long dark hair behind her. She would dance the foxtrot through the skies. When she was younger, she read a book about the wing walkers of the 1920s, and since then, she had wanted to stand on the wings of a plane and feel the rush of the sky around her. She sighed as she took one long look out of the cockpit and watched the powerful clouds eddy as she rocketed through.
This check ride was important. It was the last bastion to conquer before she could track to the shiny, fast, sexy T-38s. She had wanted to fly the jet since she started pilot training and then move on to fighter jets in the real world. Maybe the F-22? Maybe even the F-35 if it was not still grounded by the time she graduated in six months.
She took a deep breath. Her oxygen mask pressed on the bridge of her nose uncomfortably. She repositioned it and remembered where she was and what she needed to accomplish.
The number one plane in front of her rocked its wings and Elizabeth pushed the stick firmly to the left, completed a roll, and watched the world spin through the glass cockpit. Over the intercom, she heard a familiar instructor pilot: “Nice job, Bennet. Keep it a little tighter in the formation and watch your altimeter. Straight and level.”
Elizabeth felt unexpectedly nervous. Her pulse quickened and roared in her ears. Ignoring her emotions, she trained her mind back to the task at hand. She watched the number one, moved her wing a little closer to maintain tight formation mere feet from the wing of the other plane, and waited anxiously for the next signal.
Abruptly, the stick was pushed forward. She started, her heart pumping rapidly. She grabbed the stick with both hands, planted her feet to the floor, and strained against the metal to pull it back into neutral position.
“Straight and level. Straight and level.” The haunting echo began to repeat in her headset. She pulled the stick back again and again. She pushed her legs down on the rudders forcing the muscles in her thighs to contract. Her boots slipped on the metal surfaces as she desperately tugged. Her heart pounded in terror as she watched the ground zoom closer.
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! MOA 6. Nuke 62. Going down,” Elizabeth shouted into the radio. The harness pushed painfully against her breast while she changed from correcting the plane to saving herself from her horrifying dive toward the ground. She saw the trees growing bigger and bigger in her view and prayed hysterically for a miracle.
Oh God—don’t let me die.
His handsome features and serious mien sprang unbidden to her mind. Darcy.
Nausea hit and she vomited into her mask. It was crushed to her face with the G-forces and she dug her nails into her cheeks to peel it off. She could not breathe. She needed to breathe. Through tears, she searched her panel for the altimeter and finally ripped off the mask. Two thousand feet. She could only see blackness.
She was blind. Her stomach churned, warning her the plane was still falling. Opening her eyes, she saw the ground screaming toward her. It was close enough to touch. She reached out her hand, fingers stretched. She blinked and the ground was far away and she had time to think.
I have to get out of this plane! She did not want to die. She was running through Longbourn’s backyard and pushing Jane on the swing. Mary playing the piano. Her father reading to Elizabeth while seated on his lap in the comfy chair of his office. Her crying mother receiving a triangular folded flag. A uniformed soldier playing “Taps” on a trumpet. Her sisters weeping over a casket that contained nothing but the charred and blackened bits of the former Lieutenant Elizabeth Bennet.
“Straight and level! Straight and level!” Who was shouting at her? Did they not see her trying? Pull up, damn it! Pull up!
She felt between her thighs for the yellow ejection handle. She had to get out of this careening metal coffin. Where was the handle? She was blind and no amount of blinking would bring the ground back into her view. She searched furiously for the spot between her knees where she had been trained to pull. Her helmet was filled with vomit. She tried to open her eyes and search for the distinct looped handle. One hand continued to pull at the stick in a weak, desperate attempt to right the plane while the other roved under the seat in an attempt to locate her only chance of survival.
“Straight and level! Straight and level,” repeated the scratchy voice in her helmet.
The ground was coming up fast again. Every movement of her body was strangely slow and halted like she was moving through mud. Her thoughts seemed alien as she searched through her emergency procedures checklist to find the correct protocols for “hurtling to demise.” In desperation, she grasped at the stick and made another weak attempt to pull up. Her arms exhausted from the strain, she screamed. She looked once more at the ground through the sweat and vomit and closed her eyes, bracing for impact.
The plane shook Elizabeth violently as they continued to shoot through the sky. Elizabeth pondered the movement of time and was surprised that it took so long for her to hit. It felt like she had been falling forever. Turbulence would not kill her. Turbulence did not kill anybody. All it ever did was frighten passengers on 747s. She was not a flight attendant walking through the aisle serving Diet Cokes and pretzels. She was a pilot. She had studied for this. She had to find that ejection handle.
Elizabeth screamed again. The stick would not budge. She could not find the ejection handle. She felt the plane rock, and her mind jolted back to her vision of the dirt below. It was close. No more than ten seconds. She reached out a hand to touch it.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.
“Elizabeth! Please wake up!”
Elizabeth shook. She must have hit. She waited for the scent of exploding fuel and burning flesh she knew would come and the sharp metallic taste of blood that would likely accompany it. She expected the crash to be painful, instead, she was shaking. She felt the shoulder straps of her harness push against her as she continued to struggle. Suddenly, she was smothered by her helmet, her face crushed inside her mask, her nose pinched.
She took a gasping breath.
Her eyes blinked open to see a man’s chest hovering above her. Her eyes fluttered and her breath continued to come in gulps, burning in her throat as she pushed away, ready to claw the man holding her down.
Her hands grappled with something besides her head and next to her body strangling her movement; she had expected grass but found only soft fabric. After another moment, her brain registered the sheets and pillow of her bed.
Darcy looked down at her; his dark eyes creased in concern.
“I was crashing,” Elizabeth said, her voice rough, eyes darting around her bedroom at Netherfield. The green curtains. The dark dresser. The potted plant she had received in the hospital was dying; she had liked to look at it in the rehab facility. Darcy loomed above her.
“How did I get here?” She still felt the sickening lurch in her stomach of the plane dropping. She swallowed hard.
“You’re at Netherfield. Jane’s just in the other room.” Elizabeth’s skin prickled as Darcy’s deep voice vibrated in his chest when he spoke. Her head was cloudy with the sensations of her flight, and she found it difficult to reason. “Elizabeth, breathe and think. What felt real?”
She took one shaky breath. “The crash. I couldn’t find the ejection handle. It wasn’t there.” Her voice cracked and she felt hot tears spill down her cheeks, and she became furious at her inability to control herself. “It wasn’t there! Who the hell doesn’t put an ejection handle in a plane? What kind of idiot was on maintenance? How on earth do they expect someone to survive without an ejection handle?”
“Honey,” Darcy began, pulling Elizabeth to his chest. She pushed him away.
“Don’t ‘honey’ me. I couldn’t get out! I could have been killed! The stick was stuck forward—I couldn’t lift it…”
She could feel the hysteria begin to take over once more, and she took a gulping breath, letting it out slowly.
Darcy leaned down to look directly into Elizabeth’s eyes. They looked wild and vulnerable. He reached down to rub her arms, then slowly pressed her petite frame to his chest.
Darcy whispered into her ear. “You got out. You’re here. I’ve got you. You’re all right. We’re here at Netherfield. The crash was weeks ago; do you remember? You didn’t want to go home for fear your mother’s nerves would smother you. Jane and Bingley are married and are sleeping in the other room. You were screaming, so I came.”
“Oh god.” Elizabeth looked around. Find two things you can see. The window. The dresser. Find one thing you can feel. The sheets. Find one thing you can smell. Sandalwood and pine…Darcy—he always smells fresh. She started over. She was in pajamas, sitting in her bed; she could feel the cotton. Darcy was shirtless but wearing sweatpants. She suddenly felt a warmth in her stomach before she remembered their precarious arrangement. She loved him, and he knew she loved him. He had loved her much longer. After one incredible kiss in the hospital just after the crash, they had barely touched each other. They were both too anxious to give the other space to figure things out. Now on the third night home from hospital and rehab, she had to embarrass herself by freaking out. What must he think of me?
She was humiliated and tired—exhausted—if she was honest with herself. She also realized with a sudden blush that perhaps this ugly old shirt from high school and yoga pants with a hole in the knee should be retired as her nightwear of choice. She was frightened but, as she relaxed into Darcy, the feeling of her body against his was the only bearable thing in her existence, so she concentrated on that.
She slowly shook off the remnants of her nightmare, and her thoughts began to clear like a fuzzy TV channel coming in tune. Netherfield. She was at Netherfield. It was too stressful to go home to Longbourn Inn with her mother checking on her every ten minutes and her father shutting himself in his office to avoid her mother. As Mary, Kitty, and Lydia were equal parts annoying and dreadful, plus the constant hum of guests, Jane offered her new home. Elizabeth had taken up residence directly upon release from the rehabilitation center.
Her therapist had said to expect nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of the dream brought feelings of shame for being so weak, and she felt a slow blush creep up her cheeks and into her hairline.
“I’m completely embarrassed. Of course—none of it is real. I can’t believe I made you get up.” She let out a long, exasperated sigh and looked around the room, pushing away from him, much gentler this time, and combing through her matted curls with her fingers. “Go back to sleep. You have to fly tomorrow.”
“Elizabeth, it’s no big deal.”
“It is a big deal. You have to fly. You can’t show tired after dealing with me being a baby all night.”
Darcy shrugged and sat next to her in the bed. “It’s a less demanding sortie. Besides, I don’t show till ten. I’ve got plenty of time.” He reached out and gently smoothed the frizz and tangles that had overtaken her hair from her thrashing. “Want me to stay with you a little while?” He offered his arms. She hesitated, then tentatively moved into them.
Elizabeth’s mind was calm as she inhaled his scent and felt the warm, calming pressure of his arms enfolding her. She released a breath she did not know she had been holding, relishing the quiet and the steady beat of his heartbeat. Thump-thump. Thump-thump. She matched her breath to his, breathing deeper and slower than normal. Her eyelids drooped, and she relaxed into his arms.
“Want me to stay?”
“Nod or shake your head?”
Elizabeth did neither as she nestled closer to his chest. Darcy felt her body relax against him and he smiled. He pulled her close and leaned against the headboard where he was found moments later by Jane. Darcy opened his eyes slowly and looked at Elizabeth’s sister as she walked clumsily into the dark room.
Darcy pressed his finger to his lips and Jane nodded at him.
“Is she back asleep?” she whispered.
“Go ahead and lay her down. I’ll stay with her.”
He moved Elizabeth’s sleeping form onto the pillow and maneuvered himself out of her embrace. They needed to figure out their relationship soon because he hated leaving her like this. He was sure the Air Force would have a reprimand for living in the same house, regardless of their intimate relationship or lack thereof. It was why he had proposed in the first place at Rosings during the hearing for the Base Closure Committee without so much as a first date! He did not want to tempt a court-martial for either of them. She sighed and snuggled into her pillow, her hair tumbled over her shoulders. Darcy looked at her again before leaving the room as quietly as Jane had entered.
Jane lay down by her sister, grateful that she had the next day off from work. She and Charles had only been home from their honeymoon for two weeks and, while Charles understood Jane’s need to care for Lizzy, it was difficult on their new relationship. Lizzy had come straight to Netherfield, not even stopping at home for clothes. Darcy had been insistent, and Jane knew Longbourn would drive Lizzy crazy within forty-eight hours.
Jane closed her eyes and tried to relax by reviewing her list for the next day. Clean. As Caroline had refused to keep up with any task she thought below her. Sort out trimming the trees on the road to the house. Because Caroline had neglected them the fall before. Take Lizzy to the doctor. Get groceries… Caroline had not cooked a meal since the wedding! Jane added “speak to Charles about his sister—again” to her list.
Lizzy must be in serious pain. Jane had never so much as broken a bone, but Lizzy had broken half of her body. Now with the nightmares, Jane had no idea how to comfort her sister. While Lizzy had been in the hospital and then rehab, Jane had been able to get things done for her job and around the house, but now she feared that Lizzy’s care would come with a list she could never accomplish. Her sister’s pain was not a line item she could simply cross off, and it was not something she could take away.
Lizzy kicked Jane, and Jane grunted and rolled over. She had forgotten Lizzy kicked in her sleep, and the cast slamming into her shin was painful. Thank goodness, Charles slept like the dead. Jane did not miss this particular aspect of her sister’s many charms, but soon, Jane drifted off.
The morning arrived soft and new. Elizabeth sighed deeply as she looked out the window at the bashful rays shooting through her curtains. Despite several casts and slings, she was able to sit up and, with assistance, move around the house. They were all to be removed in the next week and she was anxiously awaiting further independence. The doctors had told her it was good that she had been healthy and active before the crash otherwise she would have had a very different outcome. She would like to lie in bed for a few more hours reading a book but she desperately needed to go to the bathroom.
Elizabeth turned her head and found Jane’s blonde hair sticking out from under the sheet covering her sister’s face. She looks like an especially comfortable pineapple. How anyone could sleep like that without being suffocated, Elizabeth would never know. She nudged Jane gently and startled when Jane sprang into action.
“Lizzy! Are you okay? Do you need a drink? Should I get Will or Charles?”
“Shh…” Elizabeth held her finger to her lips. Jane’s eyes were wide. “I’m fine. I just need to use the bathroom.”
Jane relaxed and rolled off the bed, yawning and stretching. “I’m going to go back to Charles for a bit before he has to go to work.”
“Okay. I’m up. Tell Charles thanks for letting me borrow you last night.”
Jane scratched her head and stumbled sleepily out of the room, mumbling. “Sure thing.”
Elizabeth got herself to and from the bathroom with the aid of her old lady cane and the handicapped bars in the hallways that Darcy had installed before she came home. After what seemed a painful eternity, she made her way to the living room where she reclined on the couch and read.
Within the hour, Jane bustled in the kitchen; Charles joined her soon after, laughing and talking about his plans for the day. Caroline stalked into the room, shot darts at the happy couple (and Elizabeth), retrieved her coffee cup, and slinked back up the stairs away from the felicity flowing about downstairs. Elizabeth watched all from a spot on the couch, grateful she was not at Longbourn, listening to the screeches of her sisters. She closed her eyes and soon fell asleep, lulled by the sounds of utensils on plates and conversation humming from the kitchen.
Leigh Dreyer is a huge fan of Jane Austen variations and the JAFF community. She is blessed to have multi-generational military connections through herself and her husband, who she met in pilot training. She often describes her formative years in this way: “You know the ‘Great Balls of Fire’ scene in Top Gun (‘Goose, you big stud!’), where Goose and Meg Ryan have their kid on the piano? I was that kid.” Leigh lives with her pilot husband, a plane-obsessed son, a daughter who will one day be old enough to watch romantic movies with her, and another little one expected in September 2019.
Author Name: Leigh Dreyer
Facebook: Leigh Dreyer
Facebook Page: @leighdreyerauthor
Hi Guys, that was this for this time! But do not despair, I will be back in April with Jayne Bamber, and her P&P books. So I hope to see you again soon. Cheers!